“I think that if you can’t find a way to have fun doing what you do, whether it’s studying, your major, your employment, you need to stop doing whatever that is and find something that will be fun for you. Nobody said you had to settle for something that bores you.”
Dr. Dale Haskell, professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts, speaks from experience. After landing his dream job at 27 years of age as a professor at Southeast, he has had no regrets in all his years of teaching, and says the choice was simple.
“When I began graduate school at Southeast, they gave me a chance to teach freshman comp as a teaching assistant, and I was hooked,” he says. “I think what people have to say is important and engaging. If I can help them develop their skill as writers, I’m doing useful and interesting work.”
Originally from northern Kentucky, Haskell considers Cape Girardeau his home. While attending Southeast as an undergrad, Haskell had wonderful experiences with his teachers, which also influenced his future career choice.
“I had amazing and impressive professors here in the Department of English,” he says. “I wanted to join their ranks and was lucky to be hired here as a junior colleague of people like Leo Harris, Harvey Hecht, John Bierk and Jennie Cooper, who had been my teachers.”
It seems the admiration that Haskell felt for his professors is being passed along like a virus to his own students, who say that Haskell is “about as brilliant and ingenious and talented as a down-to-earth guy can be.”
And these compliments are not surprising, given all the support Haskell gives to his students. He emphasizes that people should live life to the fullest, and appreciates the little moments that make life so great.
“I like any day when we laugh in class,” he says, “and any day when the intelligence and accomplishments of my students can shine. There are lots of those days. Often, at the end of writing courses, we have a ‘read-abound day’ when students read some of their best work to the class and take a bow. We bring treats and applaud for each other. Days like that make me feel blessed.”
Outside of the classroom, Haskell has many other pursuits ranging from bicycling to watching movies to singing and songwriting. Through it all, he takes none of it for granted, and is grateful for the fortunate hand he’s been dealt in life.
“I’m a Catholic who prays every day and feels himself to be blessed,” he says. “My Christian beliefs hold me together and keep me smiling. I’m married to a woman who’s classier and smarter than I am, and who is funny and sweet to me. I live with dogs who greet me enthusiastically whenever I come home. I ride a bicycle for fun almost every day. I love teaching here.”
One of the things Haskell is known for outside of the Department of English is his singing and songwriting. Having written over 100 songs in the past three years, he is currently wrapping up work on his second CD, “Ineloquent Heart.” He gushes that the types of songs he writes are mushy, humorous and social commentary songs, “sort of in the vein of James Taylor.” He enjoys both writing the songs and playing for people, usually performing at wineries, coffeehouses and music festivals.
Oh, and reading? As an English professor, of course Haskell finds time for that as well. With fiction and poetry his greatest loves, he cites that one of his all-time favorite novels is Thoreau’s Walden, which he finds “wonderfully optimistic and celebratory,” which is, oddly enough, not unlike his own outlook on life.